Tom Butt
  E-Mail Forum – 2017  
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  Remarks from the Tom Butt for Mayor 2018 Fundraiser, 11/8/2017

Thank you all for coming tonight to support our 2018 campaign for mayor.

I want to thank all of you who have so generously given, both tonight and over the last two and a half years.

I also want to thank those who donated their time, skills and services to make this possible, including Bobby Winston, Christina Zirker, Joan Garrett, Aky's Cafe, Anh's Kitchen, Artisan Kitchen, Lou Bock, Bock Wine and Spirits, El Sol, Grocery Outlet, Galaxy Desserts, La Lupita, Little Louie's, Salute, East Brother Beer and CJ Yother for the beer donation. The band is called Jazz You Like It, and they are from Berkeley

And my honorary co-sponsors,

  • Irma Anderson, Former Mayor, City of Richmond
  • Rosemary Corbin, Former Mayor, City of Richmond
  • Mark DeSaulnier, Congressman, US House of Representatives, District 11
  • John Gioia, Contra Costa County Supervisor, District 1
  • H.E. Christian Peeples, Director, AC Transit
  • Tony Thurmond, California State Assembly Member, District 15
  • Contra Costa Building & Construction Trades Council (early endorsement)

Also, my wife, Shirley, who puts up with all the hassles of late night meetings, phone calls at dinnertime, and the occasional constituent lodging a complaint with her as if she were the assistant mayor.

The reason I decided to seek another term, and I hope the reason you all are supporting me, is to continue the changes that are making Richmond a better place to live, work and play.

In the last ten years, since we first started participating in the biannual National Citizen Survey, Richmond residents who rated the overall quality of life as excellent or good has almost doubled, from 17% in 2007 to 32% in 2017.

The overall image of Richmond as perceived by its residents has nearly quadrupled. Richmond as a place to live has more than doubled. Richmond as a place to raise children almost tripled. Neighborhoods rose 25%. Overall appearance is nearly twice what it was in 2007.

But even with these dramatic improvements, this is still not good enough. None of these ratings have even broken the 50% mark, so we still have much work to do. If 32% believe the quality of life is excellent or good, that means two-thirds still believe it sucks.

Every day, we see evidence that we are moving in the right direction. Last week, we broke ground for the new ferry terminal, which will go into service before the 2018 election.

Also last week, we celebrated the $1 million launch of Pogo Park Products, a for-profit social enterprise, that designs, creates, and sells custom-made play environments and play products to customers looking to build innovative play spaces in their own communities.

In its second year, the Richmond Promise Program has placed 623 students with over $3.4 million in scholarships pledged. 73% of those were the first person in their family to go to colleges. In October, I met with 26 Richmond Promise scholars going to UC Berkeley at a mixer hosted by Chancellor Carol Christ.

Some people still actually believe Richmond is teetering on bankruptcy, but that’s far from the truth. We passed a balanced budget in June, and just last week, week, the City of Richmond received the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award from the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) for its fiscal year 2016-17 operating and capital improvement budget.  This is awarded to municipal agencies whose budget documents meet the highest of professional budgeting standards.

Sales tax receipts are up nearly 11% over the second quarter of last year. Several Cannabis cultivation operations are working through the permit process and will yield an additional 5% sales tax revenue for the City.

We completed the Branding and marketing Study, funded entirely with $108,000 in donations from the business community, and we are rolling it out, with two presentations completed just last week.

I could go on and on, but this is not the State of the City presentation.

We also have challenges that require experience and leadership to overcome. In every poll or survey, the top concern of Richmond voters still remains crime. People want to feel safe. For the past few years, Richmond crime has trended downward, but this year we are seeing an uptick. We are also seeing Richmond Police Department staffing trending downward, and we have to reverse that, and we have to continue to support the Office of Neighborhood Safety, the Reentry Success Center, Ceasefire and the Family Justice Center - along with job training programs that provide a road to success, particularly for young people.

The rising cost of pensions and healthcare for our City employees requires both cooperation and astute planning, or it will sink us.
The condition of our streets, as measured by the MTC Pavement Management System, is starting to decline again after several years of improvement.

Although education is not the direct responsibility of the City, the public perception of our schools – which is not good – reflects poorly on the City and negatively affects property values, and therefore tax revenue. With the Richmond Promise Program, we are doing more than any other city in California to boost public education – and it’s working.

Dumping and blight continue to plague Richmond. In April, the new Department of Infrastructure Maintenance and Operations reported that in the past year, the Abatement Division hauled away 1,650 tons (over 3.3 million pounds) of illegally dumped trash at 15,256 locations, including over 3,000 mattresses, and removed 1,244 graffiti tags and 1,480 tires. We are in the process of tightening our ordinances dealing with dumping, and we are preparing a fee process to collect revenue from the sources of the most trash found in streets.

Like all the Bay Area, Richmond has a housing affordability crisis. Two-thirds of our voters supported Rent Control as the solution. But in the end, I don’t think it will work, just like Oakland and San Francisco where rent control has created gentrification rather than stopped it. I believe the only solution is to build more housing for every income level, and most experts agree with me. After more than a decade of almost no new construction, we are finally seeing projects, such as Shea Homes at Brickyard and Miraflores in the Pullman neighborhood, coming out of the ground, and others nearing the end of their entitlement phase.

Finally, the homeless problem has been less visible in Richmond than places like San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley, but it nevertheless persists. Contra Costa County’s Point in Time count earlier this year showed a decline in unsheltered homeless in Richmond to only 109 people, but the Richmond Police Department estimates that numbers of homeless and homeless encampments are much higher than what is represented in PIT count - upwards of 800 individuals and 76 encampments. The Richmond Department of Infrastructure Maintenance and Operations abatement crews cleared 246 homeless encampments in 2015 and removed 53.55 tons of trash from open areas.  In 2016, the number of encampments cleared totaled 162.

Contra Costa County has a population of 1,127,000, and Richmond has a population of about 110,000, or about 9.7% of the total. There are 561 Emergency beds for homeless people in programs across Contra Costa County, 311 of which are in Richmond, making Richmond a 9.7% contributor to Contra Costa County population and a 55.4% contributor to Contra Costa County homeless shelter beds. Of the unsheltered homeless on January 25, 2017, 75.7 percent were in Central or East Contra Costa, yet Richmond shelters house 55.4% of the County’s homeless.

We need to press the County for a larger share of homeless services for which the County receives millions of dollars in funding, and we need to coordinate better with their homeless service efforts.

I could go on and on, but I’m ready for a beer.

Thanks again for coming, and thank you in advance for your support in the coming year.